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September 7, 2013

Amazing Photographs of New York’s Hip-Hop Scene From the 1970s and 1980s

Martha Cooper was a photo-journalist living in New York City when she first began documenting the origins of B-boy (short for break-boys) and hip hop culture. While other New Yorkers at the time saw this movement as a trite, uninspired or even offensive fad, Martha found a new form of expressing art. Through her camera lens we recount the infancy of hip-hop culture, from the alleys and subways of New York to the masses beyond the boroughs.

“The first question people usually ask me is, ‘What made you photograph Hip Hop?’ My answer is that the words “Hip Hop” were not even in use in the late ’70s when I began this project. From 1977 to 1980, I was a staff photographer for the New York Post. One day I discovered a boy who showed me drawings of his nickname that he painted on walls. After I saw that these kids were more graphic designers than vandals, I became hooked on graffiti. My idea while documenting subway graffiti was to attempt to show the paintings within the context of the culture that created them.”

“In 1980, while on another Post assignment, I happened upon some kids breakdancing in Washington Heights. They explained how they battled each other with dance and I began to document that. The next thing I knew, there was a cultural revolution going on. It included music, dance, and art, and I was standing in the middle of it! In 1982, the words “Hip Hop” appeared in print for the first time. I thought I was photographing a specifically New York phenomenon. Never did I imagine Hip Hop would spread like wildfire to every country in the world.”

(Photos © Martha Cooper, via Brooklyn Public Library)

1 comment:

  1. Life from back when we were free, and life was dangerous.




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